The saga of pursuing a lead belay certification indoors at the local climbing gym Earth Treks! Passing the test will extend my ability and training of rock climbing. This next step will provide access to lead belay as well as lead climb with my brother and teacher Pat! Rock Climbing has become not only a fun thing to do but a passion. If I had more time I would dedicate myself to hone my skill and technique but as for now its casual when time permits at least once a week.
The first time I took the test it was just to lead belay so my brother could lead climb in the gym..I had no plans of leading. Pat said its a pretty easy test to lead belay although things do change at Earth Treks this time they not only test you for lead belay but for lead climbing! Not aware of this adjustment I set forth to give it a whirl having no knowledge of lead climbing except for watching from below. A bit nervous the instructor asked me if I know what a backclip, Z clip, backstep is…the answer is no, no and no…fail! In my first attempt to lead climb I fumbled with trying to clip with each draw…fail! At the end of the test I knew I had not passed. The instructor recommended I take a lead rock climb course and while in the gym use a top rope and practice clipping in lead climbing.
Bounce forward to Monday, December 19, 2016 my brother and I met at Earth Treks at 5:30pm cool crisp evening great night to climb indoors. I’ve done a couple of lead climbing attempts as well as honed my skills lead belay outdoors. I felt pretty confident in my knowledge and maybe just enough to take a second shot at that golden ticket! We went over the errors of lead climbing and what to look for. After a couple of climbs indoors warming up I was ready to make my way to the instructor. Rather young, tall, gangly fella with a name tag of “DAID” rather strange I thought. Turns out it was misspelled should be “David” pretty new employee about a year, a student at School of Mines. David is a veteran rock climber for years though young as he was I figured I had a great chance to succeed. As life goes changes do occur when accidents happen and in this case the test had changed again. Unfortunately I had not read the sign for what the instructors look for. As I felt my nerves bubble up again I felt very prepared. David handed me the rope and upstairs I went. My brother slacked the rope as I put on my rock shoes. David asked me if I knew the lead climbing error terms and then went over the dangers of back clipping, Z clipping, etc. To begin my testing I tied in my figure 8 knot thru the two loops…success…next came the top rope…I don’t know if it was nerves but I only tied it through one loop a big no no! I performed the safety check making sure harness was tight on myself and then to make sure Pat had his harness tight. Checking the lock on the caribiner I was now ready to lead belay we gave our signals to start the climb. I felt rather awkward for some reason, my first clip…bam error…my brother caught it I had backclipped..bummer. Going forward I made sure I place the next clips correctly. As I preceded to the top of the climb but as I turned my attention to descend I forgot to clip into the top anchors as my brother looked up and gave me a look as though to signal to me I messed up. As I turned around I was a confused, not used to indoor lead climbing I clipped into the wrong anchors completed my climb I descended and David went over a few items and instructed me to ready myself for lead belaying.
Feeling confident in my lead belay skills from the practice I gained outdoors. My brother took to wall lead climbing as he made his ascent upward I made sure I gave him enough slack, spaced myself from the wall and gave the line a slight dip or curve after the first clip in. Reeled in/out the rope as needed, looked for Z clips and back clips. Pat finished his climb and I belayed him down. David asked how he thought I did I felt I did great. Although I did fine David was not ready to pass me for some differences between indoor and outdoor rock climbing he provided the dangers of indoor lead belaying due to accidents in the gym and safety is first and foremost. I needed to be closer to the wall and pull in tighter not a lot of slack but just enough either by coming closer to the wall as needed or pulling rope through the gri gri device to give slack. David instructed me I need to work on clipping but would not be something that would pass or fail me practice is whats important to become a better clipper. I need to make sure I double check myself both tying into the rope and top rope through both loops, clipping into the correct anchor clips at the top as well as avoiding back clips. As a lead belay I need to stay closer to the wall and feed the rope as needed although different from outdoors is a safety issue when climbing indoors. Several accidents when a climber fell with the belay person being quickly pulled against the wall and smashing their face. As an example I saw an accident right after the test of a belayer slammed against the wall as he braced for impact with his feet it turns out that one of his toes his flesh was ripped….lesson learned!
Tips Testing: Lead Climb
- Slack the rope
- Tie in figure 8 knot to both loops on harness including top rope
- Safety Check both you and your belayer
- Avoid backclip, z clip, back step
- Practice clipping in
- Clip in at all draws
- Clip in at the anchors on top properly
Tips Testing: Lead Belay (GRI GRI)
- Make sure the rope is pulled through and follows the climber icon on
the Gri Gri
- Carabiner is locked in on the main loop of the harness with Gri Gri in place
- Safety Check of you and climber
- Proper placement of hands when belaying
- Indoors Body Placement close to the wall and less slack when belaying
- Proper hand control with Gri Gri when giving out rope to climber
- Maintain attention on climber to call out problems such as backclip
- Communication between Belayer and Climber, voice or hand signals
- Proper belay of rope making proper use of Gri Gri Device